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VCU Menorah Review Summer/Fall 2014
Number 81
For the Enrichment of Jewish Thought


St. Augustine (345-430), excerpt from Contra Judaeos

Then God says to Cain: “You are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hand. For you shall till the earth, and it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a mourner and an abject on earth.” The Bible does not say: ‘Cursed is the earth,’ but rather: ‘You are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hand.’ So the unbelieving people of the Jews is cursed from the earth, that is, from the Church, which in the confession of sins has opened its mouth to receive the blood shed for the remission of sins by the hand of the people that has chosen not to be under grace [i.e., salvation through Jesus Christ], but rather to exist under the law [i.e., embracing Jewish law]. And this murderer is cursed by the Church: that is, the Church admits and avows the curse pronounced by the apostle: “Whoever are the works of the law are under the curse of the law.”

“Groaning and trembling you shall be on the earth.” Here no one can fail to see that in every land where the Jews are scattered they mourn for the loss of their kingdom, and are in terrified subjection to the immensely superior number of Christians. So Cain answered God, and said: “My case is worse, if You drive me out this day from the face of the earth, and if I will be hidden from Your face, and I shall be a mourner and an outcast on the earth; everyone who finds me shall slay [i.e., kill] me.” Here he groans indeed in terror, lest after losing his earthly possession he should suffer the death of the body. This he calls a worse case than that of the ground not yielding to him its strength, or than that of spiritual death. For his mind is carnal; for he thinks little of being hidden from the face of God, that is, of being under the anger of God, were it not that he may be found and slain. This is the carnal mind that tills the ground, but does not obtain its strength. To be carnally minded is death; but he, in ignorance of this, mourns for the loss of his earthly possession, and is in terror of bodily death. But what does God reply? “Not so,” He says, “but whosoever shall kill Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” That is, ‘It is not as you say; not by bodily death shall the ungodly race of carnal Jews perish. For whoever destroys them in this way shall suffer sevenfold vengeance, that is, shall bring upon himself the sevenfold penalty under which the Jews lie for the crucifixion of Christ.’ So to the end of the seven days of time, the continued preservation of the Jews will be a proof to believing Christians of the subjection merited by those who, it the pride of their kingdom, put the Lord to death.

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